Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Abolition Movement Gaining Ground with Conservatives

Fifteen TADP supporters, including staff, board members, and other activists returned on Sunday from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Conference in Louisville, KY. As usual, the conference was packed with workshops and lectures from experts all over the country as well as from exonerees and murder victims family members, all who are working to abolish the death penalty in our country.

This year's conference also included other presenters who, at first, might not seem likely candidates to speak at such a gathering: members of law enforcement as well as conservative ministers and politicians. However, the truth is that this issue of abolition is not a liberal issue, and conservatives and other unusual allies across the country are speaking out and saying so.

Members of law enforcement who presented at the conference confirmed again and again that the death penalty does nothing to deter crime, and in fact, drains resources away from effective crime fighting measures. A detective from New York City said that he became more aware of the ineffectiveness of the death penalty in fighting crime when New York judicially abolished it a few years ago. He said that though most New York law enforcement members were initially concerned about the decision, the death penalty's abolition had absolutely no impact on crime. Furthermore, we were also reminded that New Jersey's murder rate has decreased each year since the abolition of its death penalty in 2007.

Perhaps most striking was the presentation of Senator Roy Brown of Montana, a very conservative politician from that state. He led the fight against the death penalty in Montana in its last legislative session and successfully moved a repeal bill through a Republican-controlled Senate. His opposition to the death penalty comes from his strong, conservative beliefs in a pro-life orientation from conception to natural death, less government involvement in the lives of citizens, fiscal responsibility, and dismantling those government programs that have proven to be inefficient. All of these very conservative ideals apply to the issue of the death penalty.

I came away from the conference encouraged that we can reach across party lines and political ideologies to find common ground on this issue. Regardless of whether a person is opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds, the reality is that when you examine the system beyond the emotion and outrage surrounding a murder, you discover a system that is completely and irrevocably broken. It is unfairly applied, more costly than alternatives, extremely arbitrary, not a deterrent, puts victims' families through years of unnecessary suffering, and risks executing innocent people.

I was so excited to see that the AP did a story on Senator Brown at the conference that was picked up nationwide, including in Nashville. There is still a great deal of work to do, but as Dr. King reminds us, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

Read the article here.
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